Member Pipeline - Clean Water Current - March 16, 2007
March 16, 2007
NACWA, Wet Weather Partnership Meet with EPA to Discuss TMDLs
NACWA, the Wet Weather Partnership (WWP), and the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (DCWASA) met with EPA Assistant Administrator Benjamin Grumbles March 16 to continue a dialogue on key issues arising out of the decision of the U.S Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that all total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) must be expressed as true daily calculations. The group encouraged EPA to explore how non-daily limits can be developed under EPA’s 1978 TMDL regulation, which requires that “the proper technical conditions” be present for a pollutant to be “suitable for the calculation of” a TMDL. NACWA and the WWP urged EPA to consider issuing a supplement to its Nov. 15, 2006 memo, which states that although TMDLs must include daily limits, permits can still contain non-daily limits. The supplement would acknowledge that “the proper technical conditions” can be analyzed on a waterbody by waterbody basis. NACWA and the WWP expressed concern that without further action from EPA, permits with non-daily limits may be vulnerable to appeal. Also discussed with EPA was the need to support the installation and permitting of wet weather satellite treatment systems. Grumbles reiterated the Agency’s plans to review and update its financial capability analysis guidance. NACWA will continue to work closely with EPA on these issues, and will keep the membership informed of any developments.
Water Sector Groups Partner on Farm Bill Issues, First Key Bills Introduced
NACWA this week met with fellow water sector organizations to coordinate a strategy on Farm Bill reauthorization. Representatives from the Water Environment Federation (WEF), the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA), and the National Rural Water Association (NRWA), and others participated with NACWA at the meeting and heard presentations on the status of Farm Bill legislation from staff with Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Environmental Defense — an activist group. The highlight of the discussion centered on increasing support on Capitol Hill for ramping up the funds available for Cooperative Partnership grants under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Significantly these grants would be eligible for use by municipal entities, including publicly owned treatment plants, in partnership with local farmers on water quality and energy efficiency projects.
This type of increased funding is part of the Healthy Farms, Food and Fuels Act introduced yesterday by Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) along with 64 co-sponsors — the first comprehensive piece of legislation that will serve as a stalking horse for Farm Bill legislation. NACWA and fellow water sector organizations will be meeting with Rep. Kind next week to receive an overview of the legislation, which, according to Kind’s press statement (http://www.nacwa.org/private/reg_outreach.cfm) provides $2 billion for renewable energy development and a $3 billion increase in incentives to protect water supplies and make environmental/water quality-based improvements. A twin bill with the same name was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Menendez (D-Colo.). The Association will keep members apprised of this and other Farm Bill initiatives.
NACWA Forwards Green Infrastructure Statement to EPA
NACWA sent a letter March 16 to EPA Assistant Administrator Benjamin Grumbles providing him with the Green Infrastructure Statement of Support (http://www.nacwa.org/getfile.cfm?fn=2007-03-16Green.pdf) co-authored by NACWA and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and inviting EPA to create a “plan of action” to better focus resources on promoting green infrastructure as a way to improve water quality. The Statement promotes green infrastructure solutions to combined sewer overflows, stormwater discharges, and other wet weather water quality problems. It identifies both the goals and the benefits of green infrastructure and expresses the support of the signatory organizations to pursing the use of green infrastructure as an effective and feasible means of reducing stormwater pollution and sewer overflows.
The Statement was approved by NACWA’s Board of Directors at its January Meeting, and NACWA and NRDC have recruited 22 national stakeholder organizations to sign onto the Statement. NACWA will continue to encourage other interested groups to sign on in the coming weeks and months.
The NACWA letter also thanked Grumbles and EPA for their March 5 memorandum (http://www.nacwa.org/getfile.cfm?fn=EPA_Memorandum.pdf) endorsing green infrastructure as a cost effective and environmentally preferable approach to reduce stormwater and other excess flows from entering traditional “hard infrastructure” systems. NACWA and NRDC consulted with EPA during the drafting of the Statement, and much of the language in the EPA memo closely mirrors that found in the Statement. NACWA will participate in an April 16 meeting EPA is planning in Washington, DC, for signatories to the Statement to strategize on ways to encourage greater use of green infrastructure as a tool to improve water quality.
Senators Introduce Legislation Providing $1.8 Billion for Overflow Control Grants
Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) introduced legislation this week authorizing $1.8 billion in grants for municipalities to address sewer overflows. The bill (S. 836) is nearly identical to the Water Quality Investment Act (H.R. 560), which was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last week in a bipartisan 367-58 vote. The original version of the House bill would have authorized $1.8 billion but was trimmed back to $1.7 billion before being passed by the House. NACWA and its partners in the Water Infrastructure Network (WIN) worked hard to support the bill along with the Water Quality Financing Act (H.R. 720), which would reauthorize the clean water state revolving fund at $14 billion over four years. H.R. 720 also passed the House last week in a bipartisan 303-108 vote, but similar legislation has not yet been offered in the Senate. NACWA is working with Senate staff to ensure these bills move quickly and will continue to work with members of Congress to ensure the legislation is backed up by real money.
Legal Affairs Committee Holds Successful Late Breaking Issues Call
NACWA’s Legal Affairs Committee held its second Late Breaking Legal Issues Conference Call this week, with a large number of members and affiliates participating. The call featured a roundtable discussion entitled That Was Then, This Is Now, focused on the lack of clear state or federal approaches for permitting peak excess flow treatment facilities (PEFTFs), stormwater clarifiers, and constructed sanitary sewer overflow (SSO) points. The roundtable highlighted the recent experiences of Tonawanda, N.Y.; the East Bay Municipal District, Oakland, Calif.; Johnson County Wastewater, Kan.; Independence, Mo.; and the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati, Ohio. Roundtable participants discussed how their peak flow structures, many of which were built with state or federal approval and funds, have become the targets of increased EPA and state enforcement actions. Participants on the call engaged in a lively debate on how to proactively address these structures in permitting and enforcement actions. Handouts from the call can be http://www.nacwa.org/private/legal/confcalls.cfm. The next Late Breaking Legal Issues Conference Call is scheduled for June 13.
EPA Extends Comment Period on Permit Fee Rule
EPA announced this week that it will extend the comment period on its proposed permit fee rule by another 60 days to allow a further dialogue on the proposal. The rule was first released in early January and proposed an incentive program whereby states that fund at least 75 percent of their National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting program through user fees would be eligible to receive an extra allotment of federal funds from the Section 106 grant program. The proposal (see Regulatory Alert 07-10 at http://www.nacwa.org/private/regalerts/ra07-01.cfm) has sparked widespread opposition from states, regulated entities, and Capital Hill.
NACWA submitted comments (http://www.nacwa.org/getfile.cfm?fn=2007-03-02cmts.pdf) March 2 strongly opposing the plan and has been working with a variety of coalitions to stymie the rule, including meeting with congressional staff. These efforts led to a bipartisan letter sent March 5 by nine U.S. senators to EPA, expressing deep concerns with the proposal and asking the Agency to reconsider further action on the rule. Although EPA continues to publicly express confidence in the proposed rule, the decision to extend the comment period by 60 days suggests that the public and political pressure against the Agency to halt the proposal is mounting. EPA received more than 50 negative comments on the rule during the original comment period, and the letter from the Senate is the clearest indication yet that Congress is not likely to support the Agency’s approach. Although the final outcome of the proposal will not be known for some time, it appears increasingly unlikely that the proposed rule will survive in its current form. NACWA will continue to track this issue and report any updates to the membership. Members that have not already commented on the proposal and would like to do so are urged to forward a copy of their comment to Nathan Gardner-Andrews at firstname.lastname@example.org.